If you're like me then you do your gift buying for children online because have seen what happens when you take five-year-olds into a toy store? They develop the reach of Mr. Fantastic and have a grip like the bite of a great white shark. Between the wails, the "I wants", and the grabbiness of the tiny hands it's just easier to do it through the magic box.
Which is sad because there are some really first rate places locally owned and operated that you can buy toys in Houston. If you wish to brave it in the name of buying local, might I recommend...
10. Super Happy Incredible Toys This is more for the big kid in all of us adults living in arrested development. If you've got a taste to recreate the glory days of Transformers Generation 1 or maybe that Castle Greyskull you remember so fondly then this is a good local place to start. They specialize in the vintage toys of the '80s and '90s, but there's plenty of modern fare to be seen as well. It's a great location to relive your childhood.
9. The Toy Crossing It's just one of the many little shops on the Kemah boardwalk, but I've always found Toy Crossing to be a neat hole int he wall. They're extremely friendly, have tons of dragons and a good selection of Hello Kitty stuff. For everyone else there are games and chemistry sets, so that should cover the temperaments of most children. It's not worth a trip on it's own, but it's a must if you're already having a day out on the boardwalk.
8. GreenScenes Toys This is for those of you looking to be more environmentally conscious in your children's play. They use non-toxic, recycled, renewable, and wooden components to make progressive learning games that leave a tiny carbon footprint. The Destruct 3 game pictured above is one of the toys offered and it is incredibly fun to play as well as teaching engineering and mathematics.
7. Fiddle Sticks (Children's Museum of Houston) There's so much to do and see at the Children's Museum that it's actually possible to wear out a kid enough to peruse the gift shop in a sedate manner. They've got the higher end stuff like Melissa and Doug, my pick for older kids are Flutz products. Everything from juggling to electrical engineering guides for kids. My only complaint is that it can get kind of cramped in their on crowded days.
6. Nan's Comics and Games The toy selection at Nan's is more geared towards the collector than the play, but there's one area where they beat pretty much any other place in Houston; board games. If you've got a family that really likes board games then you need to visit Nan's. They range from all levels, and sometimes even come across awesome vintage finds. It's still the only place I've ever seen a boxed Fireball Island locally.
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5. Houston Museum of Natural Science Gift Shop Honestly, as far as really cool places to shop go the gift shop at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is hard to beat. It's huge, for one thing, and stuffed to the rafters with tie in materials for every exhibit. The Egyptian stuff is nice is you've got a mummy-obsessed kid like me, and there's all the usual bug catching kits, dinosaur bones, high-quality kid space costumes, and even Star Trek and Doctor Who stuff! It's also surprisingly reasonable in price most of the time, and if you're a museum member then you get ten percent off.
4. Brilliant Sky Toys and Books Though it's part of the larger chain of stores, the Brilliant Sky shop in Sugar Land is locally owned and operated. It's not only a good store, but a community center offering story times, craft projects, and even concerts. It's also renowned for its customer service and hands-on recommendations. It's nice to know someone in the world is paid to be a toy expert.
3. FUNdamentally Toys This store is literally the anti-Toys R' Us. I don't think I've ever seen a group of employees take toy-selling so seriously. These people know how important play is for development and they will definitely be able to help you pick out the perfect gift for a child of any age. The price is high, no argument, but they do have a pretty sweet rewards program that gets you $10 off the month of your birthday.
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2. Imagination Toys and Shoes I'm a little biased over Imagination because it reminds me of the mall toy stores of my youth. With three locations around Houston it's one of the most universally convenient, and has a nice selection of children's footwear to boot. It's so awesome to be able to bribe a kid to sit through a shoe fitting by offering them a toy if they're good. Wide selection, friendly staff, and reasonably priced for a non-big box store.
1. Toys to Love Consistently voted one of the best toy stores in Houston, Toys to Love is a must visit destination at least once. We described it as the Sharper Image of toy stores in the past, and that still stands. It is the world in miniature, with the kind of science and educational playsets you won't find even in the museum gift shop. This is play on expert mode, and for two decades it's been a local landmark for the brainy kids.